Forces of hell, part II: Brown and Darling's Budget rift

After Chancellor's attack on Downing Street briefing, new divisions emerge over pre-election sweeteners

Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown are at odds over whether the Chancellor should offer sweeteners to the voters in the pre-election Budget,
The Independent understands.

The men staged a show of unity yesterday after Mr Darling launched an astonishing outburst against "the forces of hell" in Downing Street briefing against him.

But the stresses between them have strained preparations for the Budget expected to take place next month. Mr Darling needs to reassure the money markets by setting out a credible plan to halve the national deficit within four years. It could point to areas of public spending that face cuts because of the financial squeeze.

Mr Brown, however, wants the Budget to contain some good news for the voters, either in the form of extra spending or cast-iron promises not to cut budgets to some frontline services. He believes that would help establish political dividing lines with the Tories to exploit during the election campaign.

The differences were underlined when Mr Brown recently indicated that some spending could increase if unemployment levels proved to be lower than forecast. Mr Darling swiftly made clear that any "spare" cash should be used to reduce the deficit.

Mr Darling was asked in a television interview on Tuesday evening about negative briefings against him from anonymous Brown allies after he gave a gloomy interview about the world economy. He said: "I'd done this interview and the forces of hell were unleashed." Asked whether Downing Street was responsible, Mr Darling replied: "Not just them, the Tories as well." He hinted that Damian McBride, the Prime Minister's former political spokesman, had been to blame.

Mr Brown insisted he played no part in the briefings, although he stopped short of denying they had taken place. He said: "Alistair has been a friend of mine for 20 years, we have worked together, our families know each other. We have worked together all this time and we have huge mutual respect for each other."

Labour MPs were divided yesterday over the reasons for the normally mild-mannered Mr Darling's colourful protest about Downing Street's methods. One believed he had simply answered a question too candidly: "Even the most senior politicians can be guilty of a slip of the tongue." Another MP believed it was a calculated warning to Downing Street not to interfere in the Budget – and a bid to stay in his post if Labour win the election or emerge as the biggest party in a hung parliament.

Mr Brown and Mr Darling held a brief meeting yesterday morning as reports of the Chancellor's comments dominated broadcast bulletins. The Prime Minister's spokesman described the encounter as "cordial". Treasury sources denied there were tensions between the men over Budget plans.

They sat next to each other in Prime Minister's Questions as David Cameron claimed they were "at war". At one point as the two men exchanged whispers, Mr Cameron taunted them: "Any closer and they will start kissing!"

Mr Brown retorted that it was the first time the Tory leader had referred to the economy – and added that Mr Darling had been right on all the big decisions before him.

John Bercow, the Speaker, threatened to suspend the sitting after rowdy backbenchers made it almost impossible to hear the furious exchanges. Referring to claims that Downing Street staff rang an anti-bullying helpline, he said that if MPs did not stop shouting, "I might have to ring some sort of helpline myself".

Yesterday Mr McBride, who resigned over emails in which he discussed smearing Conservatives, denied he had undermined the Chancellor while at Number 10. "The idea of Gordon instructing us to brief against Alistair Darling is totally wrong," he said.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?